OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In their first two games, the Baltimore Ravens forced 10 turnovers, allowed just one touchdown and won twice.
Over the past two weeks, they’ve given the ball away six times, been outscored 70-16 and lost both games.
“There are a lot of common denominators there. It’s pretty straightforward,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “Turnovers. Stopping the run. Getting first downs, getting off the field on third down. Those are big factors. And there’s been some big plays against us.”
That pretty much sums up what went wrong for Baltimore in a 44-7 loss to Jacksonville on Sept. 24 and the 26-9 lashing administered by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Pittsburgh went 7 for 15 on third down conversions, had five plays cover at least 18 yards and got 144 yards rushing from Le’Veon Bell.
“We’re not defending the run as well as we want to, for sure,” Harbaugh said.
The Ravens’ play over the past two weeks is the exact opposite of their performance in a 20-0 win over Cincinnati and a 24-10 domination of Cleveland. If it seems as if the team is regressing, well, that assertion is not entirely off base.
“We’ve got to execute. That’s where it starts,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “That’s the basics of it. We have to get some energy. We’ve got to get some confidence. All of the above.”
The offense has scored one touchdown in each of the past two games and the defense has been porous.
Pittsburgh rushed for 173 yards, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked only once and the only turnover the Ravens produced came on a ball that went in and out of the hands of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.
And so, Baltimore (2-2) trails first-place Pittsburgh (3-1) in the AFC North.
“They have the upper hand in the division,” conceded linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had just one tackle Sunday. “This is an emotional loss, but we’re committed to getting it fixed.”
The Ravens know they can win with the personnel they’ve got because they’ve done it already this season. So there probably won’t be any drastic measures taken before this Sunday’s road game against the Oakland Raiders, who, like the Ravens, have dropped two straight after opening 2-0.
“We’re not going to change dramatically what we do,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t panic and say, ‘OK, we’re going to do something different.’ Within our offense, we have all the elements. It’s how do we put it together in a way each week that gives our guys a chance to execute the best?”
Flacco accepted the brunt of the blame for the struggles of the offense, noting: “It starts with me.” He’s thrown six interceptions compared to four touchdown passes, and against Jacksonville he was 8 for 18 for 28 yards before being lifted.
But there have been several dropped passes over the past two weeks, Alex Collins has lost two fumbles and the offensive line is still adjusting to the loss of right guard Marshal Yanda.
“Joe said yesterday it starts with him. That’s what the great ones think,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something we’ve just got to help him with. We’ll do that. I want to see him play well. I want to see him put up numbers and make plays. But it’s not just him. It’s the offense in totality that has to do that.”